Salted pork thighs for more than 100 years are still edible

From what was left in the warehouse, the ham of salted pork became a “pet” that was insured by the owner for $ 1,000 and spent $ 5,000 to hire someone to look after.

In 1931 , PD Gwaltney Jr. walked into a hotel in Washington DC with a suitcase in hand and asked if the hotel could put it in the storage. The receptionist looked down and asked if the suitcase contained something so important. Mr. Gwaltney replied: “Oh, it’s just my pet ham.”

Gwaltney’s no joke, he’s an expert who owns one of the most famous companies selling bacon in Virginia. He always brings his 30-year-old pork leg to display at fairs, food shows, or even on naval ships.

Salted pork thighs for more than 100 years are still edible
As a pet, Mr. Gwaltney’s pig thigh also has its own collar. (Photo: Isle of Wight County Museum).

Gwaltney is really serious with his ” pet” when he has to ask the hotel’s security guard to take care of it. An insurance company values the ham at about ,000-77,000, at today’s currency rates.

“Whenever he went to a fair, Gwaltney bought a special chain and fixed it to the floor, so that no one could steal the ham,” said Tracey L. Neikirk, curator of the County Museum Isle of Wight in Smithfield (Virginia), said.

It was part of a clever marketing plan that made the town of Smithfield, Gwaltney’s home town, the bacon capital of the world. So much so, that Queen Victoria ordered six Smithfield hams in a single week in the 19th century. When crooks began selling shoddy meat, Virginia authorities created strict rules for Smithfield ham : Pigs must be fed a special diet of peanuts, and bacon is only prepared in state territory.

Gwaltney’s career began in 1891, when he and his father ran a peanut business and helped the family expand the company’s operations with a line of salted pork thighs. Gwaltney learned from his father the lesson of marketing. In 1890, Gwaltney’s father dug up a peanut from a local field, engraved the number 1890 on it, and used it as a template to introduce to anyone curious about the quality of his produce. Years later, Father Gwaltney realized that the number written on the groundnut made its own value.

Salted pork thighs for more than 100 years are still edible
Gwaltney’s father, the world’s oldest peanut, is also an object in the museum. (Photo: Isle of Wight County Museum).

In 1902, Gwaltney decided to launch a similar campaign of his own when he pulled from the barn an accidentally forgotten hammock. When he discovered this, he smelled a lucrative business opportunity and decided to keep it to see how long it could be preserved.

In August 1921, the Gwaltneys’ peanut store caught fire, tons of peanuts and a bacon brothel caught fire. According to the Isle of Wight County Museum, the smell of burnt peanuts and melted fat lingers in the air for up to weeks. Gwaltney’s pet pig leg is lucky to be safe.

A peanut production line forever irretrievable, Gwaltney frantically promotes the factory’s bacon products – and uses his “pets” . First, he bought ,000 insurance for it, then spent ,000 on protection.

In 1932, the pork leg appeared in the book Believe It or Not by Robert Ripley, with the statement that it was “sweet and still edible after 30 years”.

Salted pork thighs for more than 100 years are still edible
Mr. Gwaltney’s pet pig thighs today. (Photo: Isle of Wight County Museum).

Today, the 117-year-old pig’s leg is burnt red-brown, each fiber is clearly yellowed with white streaks, and the outside is covered with a layer of dry, hard skin with deep wrinkles. It resides in a glass case at the Isle of Wight County Museum, along with two other smoked pork thighs – one of which is the world’s largest salted pork thigh weighing 29.4 kg with a thick layer of fat drenched in peanut oil.

According to Tracey L. Neikirk, this 100-year-old pork leg has a scent of smoke and wood, although it is still edible, but the taste cannot be as good as before. “Now it’s more like a piece of drier pork. It won’t have the sweetness of the meat,” Neikirk said.

The smoking process – salting the meat and draining the blood vessels – helps the thighs to be preserved longer and become more flavorful. But most bacon thighs reach “ripe” after a year or two. “After such a long time, not knowing how meat has been smoked, I’m not sure it’s safe to eat,” a Food Standards Agency (FSA) spokesman said.